The Hindustan Times – Pravin Togadia says he’ll quit VHP after his nominee loses presidential poll

Former Himachal Pradesh governor V S Kokje defeated Togadia’s aide Raghava Reddy by bagging 131 votes to 60

Smriti Kak Ramachandran

New Delhi – India, 14 April 2018. In a setback to its best-known leader Praveen Togadia, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Saturday elected former Himachal Pradesh governor V S Kokje as the international president of the hardline organisation.

While Togadia’s associate and incumbent international president Raghava Reddy polled 60 votes, Kokje walked away with 131 votes in the first election ever to the post.

An upset Togadia announced his departure from the VHP and said he will go on an indefinite hunger strike in Ahmedabad on Tuesday to press his demand for the passage of a law in Parliament for the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

VHP, like the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Togadia has shared an uneasy relationship with Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, and the outcome of the election is a setback to him and his followers.

Soon after the election, the central board of trustees of the VHP approved the appointments of Alok Kumar as VHP’s working president, Ashok Rao Chowgule as working president (external), Milind Parande as secretary general, Vinayak Rao Deshpande as organizational general secretary, Champat Rai as a vice-president and Venkata Koteswara Rao as joint general secretary.

Saturday’s election that took place in Gurgaon was necessitated by members failing to reach consensus on who should head the VHP, which has been at the forefront of the Ayodhya Ram Temple movement and more recently spearheaded a campaign against inter-faith marriages.

A meeting of the VHP’s executive board and trustees committee, whose members form the electorate, could not agree at a December meeting in Bhubaneswar on who should be the organisation’s international president, precipitating Saturday’s election.

While one group backed Kokje, who was then the VHP international vice-president, another pitched for giving Reddy another term.

Kokje was appointed a judge of Madhya Pradesh high court in 1990 and served as acting chief justice of Rajasthan high court for 11 months in 2001; he was designated senior advocate of the Supreme Court in September 2002 and in 2003 appointed Himachal Pradesh governor, a post he held until 2008.

Reddy was assisted by outgoing working president Togadia, whose relations with Modi have soured over time. He has periodically questioned the government’s stance on building a Ram temple in Ayodhya. In January, he alleged that “some people” were plotting to kill him to silence his voice on issues such as the Ram temple.

Togadia recently went public with the information that Modi and he have not spoken since 2002 and that despite letters he had written to the latter to bury the hatchet, there had been no response from the PM.

“What was my fault, for 32 years I raised my voice for Hindus, I left my medical profession and my home for the cause. I never bowed to pressure and I will continue to do so,” Togadia said on Saturday soon after the result was declared.

Asserting that he had received calls of support from across the country, Togadia said he had asked his supporters to remain calm, as he sets out to find ways to push his agenda. Quoting Chanakya, he said he is preparing to “win a bigger battle by losing the smaller war.”

“I want loan waivers for farmers, I want jobs for the youth and for Pandits to be settled in Kashmir..,”he said.

The need for an election itself raised eyebrows in the Sangh; a senior functionary not wishing to be named said this was a departure from the practice of members choosing a candidate unanimously.

It was also read as a snub to Togadia, and some within the organisation said the election was being held at the behest of the faction that supports PM Modi, and did not want a representative who “embarrassed the government”.

“Usually the president nominates a working president, who in turn handles the functioning of the organisation. Togadia held the position since December 2011,” the functionary said.

Togadia’s frequent outbursts against the government and his pointed barbs at PM Modi were perceived by many in the Sangh as the reason why some in the organisation pushed for his removal.

Having come to be recognised as the face of the VHP, which took on PM Modi for dubbing cow vigilantes as criminals, Togadia was seen to have breached the code of conduct of the tightly controlled organisation, said the functionary quoted above.

“At the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha in Nagpur in March, some members wanted the issue discussed, since they felt acrimonious statements made by one affiliate of the Sangh against another were against the ethos and discipline of the organisation. But the issue was left to be sorted through an election,” another functionary said, also requesting anonymity.

Togadia’s hard-line politics and his unwavering position on the issues of Ram Temple and so-called Love Jihad, however, gained him support among the more orthodox.

“There is a section within the Sangh that feels that the VHP, Bajrang Dal and even the RSS can get subsumed within the larger BJP identity if they are not allowed to pursue their ideology or are expected to fall in line with political compulsions. For this section, Togadia’s stance was a way to assert their independence,” said the second functionary.

Prior to the election, Reddy had alleged that the list of voters itself had been manipulated to ensure his ouster. He was reported to have said that 37 fake voters were added to the original list of 212 members eligible to cast their votes.

The Tribune – Must implement 1974 Protocol on pilgrims: Pakistan envoy

Smita Sharma, Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 13 April 2018. Days after India and Pakistan agreed to mutually de-escalate tensions over the diplomats’ row, the Pakistani High Commission said both countries must “faithfully” implement the bilateral protocol of 1974 on pilgrimage.

As Sikh pilgrims from India poured into Pakistan on Baisakhi, which marks the 320th birth anniversary of the Khalsa, Pakistan envoy Sohail Mahmood said: “The Government of Pakistan makes assiduous efforts to preserve the religious sites and facilitate the visits of pilgrims of all faiths.

This latest visit of Sikh yatris to Pakistan is also consistent with the Government’s commitment and is in accordance with the provisions of the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines”.

“The desire of the pilgrims to pay obeisance is sacred, as they wait and prepare for their spiritual journey throughout the year. Both sides must, therefore, ensure faithful implementation of the bilateral Protocol of 1974.”

Pakistan High Commission has issued visas to nearly 2,100 Sikh pilgrims this year from India this year, as opposed to 1,600 pilgrims went last year.

Over 20,000 Sikh pilgrims from across the globe are expected to attend the Baisakhi festival with main celebrations lined up for Saturday in Pakistan’s Punjab province amid high security.

Sikh Jathas will visit various gurdwaras and holy places in Pakistan from April 12-21, including Hasan Abdal’s Panja Sahib Gurudwara and Nankana Sahib.

Relations between India and Pakistan had soured further amid bloodshed at LoC and International Border.

Recently, Pakistani Zaireens (pilgrims) were not allowed visas to participate in the Urs at Ajmer Sharif and Nizamuddin Aulia. Islamabad called it a violation of the 1974 protocol arrangement under which Indian pilgrims visit holy sites like Katas Raj temple and sacred gurdwaras in Pakistan during Guru Nanak Jayanti and Baisakhi.

Gent Gurdwara – Verenigde Protestante Kerk (VPK) – Faja Lobi Surinam Restaurant

Gent Gurdwara
18 February 2018

Kirtan Darbar

Two Granth Singhs singing

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

United Protestant Church
Verenigde Protestante Kerk (VPK)
20 February 2018

Protestant church on the Brabantdam

Brabantdam Kerk

Faja Lobi
Surinaams Restaurant
20 February 2018

Not a bad place, but why have an all-white staff in a Surinam Restaurant ?

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Economic Times – Sikhs stage protest in UN on Ambedkar birth anniversary celebration

United Nations – New York – USA, 14 April 2018. A group of Sikhs have protested against alleged atrocities perpetrated against minority communities in India during the commemoration of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 127th birth anniversary at the world body’s headquarters.

India’s Permanent Mission to the UN had organised a special event titled ‘Leaving No One Behind’ at the UN yesterday to celebrate Ambedkar’s 127th birth anniversary. UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner delivered the keynote address at the event.

As India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin began his opening remarks at the event, a group of Sikhs stood up in the conference room and held up posters that read ‘Minorities Under Threat’ and ‘Never Forget 84’ alongside pictures of Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid and the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Akbaruddin remained unperturbed by the protest and continued to deliver his speech. The Sikhs, about 15 in number, had tied black bands on their turbans and they stood silently for the entire duration of Akbaruddin’s remarks, holding up the posters for the attendees to see.

As soon as Akbaruddin concluded his remarks, the group left the conference room. Outside the room, UN police and security personnel assembled and questioned the Sikhs, inspecting their posters and inquired about whether they had permission and valid passes to enter the UN.

The Sikhs, belonging to the Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar USA and Youth Akali Dal Amritsar USA, told the security personnel that they were protesting silently and peacefully.

One of the protesters, Sarbjeet Singh of the Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar USA told that Ambedkar’s vision was to ensure equality for all communities, minorities and Dalits and he had enshrined this in the Indian Constitution.

But the BJP government that has come to power in India wants to build a Hindu nation. They are committing atrocities against Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Dalits. We are here to peacefully convey the message on behalf of all the minority communities in India that Ambedkar’s vision of equality remains unfulfilled, he said.

Dawn – A mortal blow to Nawaz Sharif or a new mountain to climb?

Nasir Iqbal

Islamabad / Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 14 April 2018. The Supreme Court on Friday shut the doors of parliament permanently on the politicians disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution by ruling that such ineligibility is for life, dashing the possibility of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif running for re-election after being disqualified over graft allegations last year.

The unanimous decision of a five-judge SC bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah on the question of Mr Nawaz’s disqualification was the latest blow to the embattled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

The same argument will apply to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader and former member of the National Assembly Jahangir Khan Tareen, who had been declared disqualified under the same Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution by the apex court in December last year.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif while reacting to the judgement said, “I was expecting such a verdict from the Supreme Court because I am their sole target.”

Speaking to the ruling party workers at his Jati Umra residence, the supreme leader of the PML-N said such decisions would not deprive the people of their leadership. He urged party workers to be patient and continue to work towards a historic victory in the 2018 general elections.

The judgement, which had been reserved on 14 February, was pronounced by Justice Bandial in the Courtroom No 1 of the Supreme Court after the chief justice observed that since Justice Bandial had authored the 54-page verdict, he would announce it.

Justice Bandial read out the operative part by holding that the incapacity created for failing to meet the qualification under the provision imposes a permanent bar that remains in effect so long as the declaratory judgement supporting the conclusion of one of the delinquent kinds of conduct under Article 62(1)(f) remains in effect.

Justice Saeed, in his six-page additional note, did not agree with the reasoning employed in its entirety though he concurred with the conclusion.

The restriction imposed by Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution for a candidate for election to parliament served the public need and public interest for honest, upright, truthful, trustworthy and prudent elected representatives, wrote Justice Bandial.

The judicial mechanism under Article 62(1)(f) grants a fair opportunity and adequate remedy for relief to a candidate under challenge to vindicate him. Therefore, permanent incapacity of a candidate for election under this provision is not an arbitrary, excessive or unreasonable curtailment of his fundamental rights under Article 17(2) of the Constitution.

The judgement, however, drew mixed response from the legal fraternity as a member of the Pakistan Bar Council, Raheel Kamran Sheikh, observed that the interpretation of the article done by the court was unusually harsh and penal.

“If parliamentarians do not wake up even now to the potential dangers of the power embodied in Article 62 and fail to suitably amend the same, the courts will continue to enforce their subjective standards of morality and ban them for life one after another even if their alleged mischief is not culpable enough to be labelled as a crime,” cautioned the PBC member.

Advocate Kamran regretted that the judgement reinforced the fact that Pakistan was a theocratic state.

However, senior counsel Chaudhry Faisal Hussain termed the interpretation “most accurate” citing that the court kept itself out of the Constitution by giving the parliament a chance to provide the missing time frame and cover the gaps by following due process.

Justice Bandial observed the introduction of Islamic provisions in Article 62 of the Constitution in 1985 was retained by the 18th Amendment in clauses “d, e and f” of Article 62.

The clauses carry Quranic qualifications under Islamic law for establishing eligibility to hold public office of trust or authority, laying down conditions for election to parliament such as good character, observance of Islamic injunctions, knowledge of Islamic teachings and abstention from major sins.

These conditions are subjective and under Article 62(2) of the Constitution obligate only the Muslim candidates for election to parliament. As these provisions do not prescribe objective standards of conduct, only the cases of blatant deviation from commonly recognised and accepted standards of Islamic norms can form the subject matter of such restraints.

But Article 62(1)(f) imposes Islamic ethical conditions for eligibility of a candidate for election to parliament by making it applicable to both Muslims as well as non-Muslim candidates for parliamentary membership.

In Pakistan, the verdict observed, parliamentarians held leadership roles for the people and constituted the political and ruling elite in society. According to the preamble of the Constitution, these persons are representatives of the people of Pakistan to whom the former are ultimately responsible as fiduciaries.

The qualities of sagacity, righteousness, honesty and trustworthiness laid down in Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution as qualifications for membership to the elected house are actually derived from the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the verdict emphasised.

After the 18th Amendment, the judgement recalled an adverse declaration by a court of law against a candidate was necessary to oust him from an election. Thus, the prescription by the 18th amendment of an adverse judicial declaration to precipitate the ineligibility of a candidate for election has provided a lawful, transparent and fair mechanism to a candidate.

The judgement also cited the 2013 Abdul Ghafoor Lehri case in which the apex court had held that a false declaration made in the nomination papers by a candidate about his academic qualification led to a permanent embargo on the candidature for election.

This is because Article 62 did not provide any period for which a person would stand debarred from contesting elections and therefore the appellant before the court could not become qualified merely by efflux of time.

To the same effect is the judgement in Mohammad Khan Junejo case wherein a deficiency in qualification under Article 62(1)(f) led to a permanent disqualification. Thus it is clear from the findings recorded in these judgements that the ineligibility of a candidate for election in Article 62(1)(f) is the basis for holding his incapacity to be incurable by efflux of time.

The decision also compared the case of an ex-convict under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution with the one convict under Article 62(1)(f), because the latter had not paid a personal price for his delinquent act.

It is in such circumstances that a person declared to be dishonest or in breach of his trust or fiduciary duty or being non-righteous or profligate must suffer the burden of that finding of incapacity for as long as the court decree remains in force.

The judgement elaborated said the retributive justice entailed several serious consequences apart from deprivation of personal liberty of the convict. Such a convict in fact suffered a loss of life by being immobilised, endured loss of his livelihood, watched disruption and hurt to his family and lived with the lasting stigma of conviction on his reputation.

It was, therefore, said a corporal punishment had “paid his dues to society”. Even after his release from jail, the judgement said, the convict faced many daunting challenges for rehabilitating himself in society as a responsible, productive and acceptable member.

It was in this context that one should look at the disqualification under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution for a limited period of five years imposed upon a convict after his release from jail, the verdict added.

However, a candidate for election who had committed misconduct falling within the terms of Article 62(1) (f), in particular, misrepresentation, dishonesty, breach of trust, fraud, cheating, lack of fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, deception, dishonest misappropriation, declared by a court of civil jurisdiction as per Islamic and also universal criteria of honesty, integrity and probity, rendered himself unfit to hold public office, the judgement said.

Zulqernain Tahir in Lahore also contributed to this report